I’m revising my latest book for Harlequin. I have help. Here, she’s sitting on my lap while I’m at the computer, looking up at me. Makes it hard to type, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. We almost lost her this past summer, and her days are numbered because she has chronic heart failure, so I’m all about enjoying her while I have her. Isn’t she cute? 😉
That’s what being a professional writer is all about. Did you know that? It’s not about waking up each morning with birds singing, wonderful emails from fans the world over, and breakfast in bed prepared by the household staff and served on real china with real silver and a real teapot, etc.
No, being a professional writer is about dragging your sorry butt out of the bed even though your dreams seem more interesting than the book you’re working on. It’s about brushing your teeth, wrapping your hair in a scrunchie, and turning on the coffee or the kettle. It’s about getting that hot cup of motivation (mine happens to be decaf these days) and going to your writing place. Mine is an office upstairs in my house.
It’s about opening the document and staring at the words, thinking they are probably the worst words ever written and that your career is most certainly over, and then clicking over to email, Facebook, and Twitter to waste time rather than face the task.
And then you might get the lovely surprise of a nasty review, or the news that your book is the only one not in the top whatever of Amazon while all the rest of the books in your line that month are. You might want to go back to bed and cry, or turn off the computer and swear you’re giving up because this is too hard.
But you can’t. Because you’re a professional and you signed on the dotted line and someone is expecting delivery of this monstrous piece of junk in a few weeks (if you’re lucky) or a few days (if you aren’t). You. Must. Deliver.
And because you are a professional, you will. You will tackle that manuscript like it’s you or it (which it is) and you will somehow, eventually, win the battle. You may even like it when you’re done. You may be pleasantly surprised, and you may cry and laugh and tell the cat what a genius you are. (The cat doesn’t care, but say it anyway.)
And then, if your editor thinks it’s not as good as you think it is, you may get it back with a letter that tells you what you need to do. The process of crying and foot dragging will start all over again, but you’ll wrestle the beast once more and you will, eventually, win.
If you really are a professional, you will do this even if you didn’t sign on the dotted line. Because you want to sign on that line and you better get used to the pain now. You have to write even when you don’t really feel like it. Some days, you won’t feel like it. Other days, you can imagine nothing more fun in this world that sitting at the computer in your jammies and making stuff up.
But the truth, dear friends, that I’ve learned after nearly 3 years in the published trenches is this: it doesn’t get easier. It usually gets harder. Better prepare for it now.
And with that piece of hard fought wisdom, I’m back to the trenches to battle these revisions. I will definitely win–but I’ll probably get a bit bloodied in the process.
Clearly, I have gotten very, very bad at writing blog posts. I used to really enjoy doing it! It was my outlet, my way to blather on about whatever was on my mind. This blog, long before I published, was alternately a “writer’s journey” blog, a travel blog, and a “she talks way too much about inane every day crap” kind of blog.
I’ve realized that I miss blogging regularly, but I also have to acknowledge to myself that I get pretty stretched thin sometimes. I also tend to feel that if I’m blogging, I’m supposed to be inspiring or profound or whatever. I think that comes from having gone on this pretty amazing journey from unpublished to published, and feeling like I’m supposed to help others feel inspired or motivated where I can.
But I got an email from someone recently who thanked me for the posts I’ve done on this blog (she even went and read the old ones, which I found amazing!) because they showed her my progression as a writer. So, that’s the answer really. That’s why I’m supposed to blog more frequently. It’s about progression and getting to know each other. I’ll blather senselessly, sometimes it’ll be really good take-that-to-the-bank info, but mostly it’ll be whatever is on my mind at the time.
And if you get something out of it, great. If you don’t, I hope you won’t be too upset with me. 🙂
Today’s blathering is about revisions and editors and the relief you feel when your editor explains the revision letter to you. Because I got a revision letter earlier this week, and I was confused. I always expect them, of course, because nothing is perfect when you first turn it in unless you’re Nora maybe.
But this time the revisions seemed more extensive than they have for the last few books, and I was stumped. What did I do wrong? How did I get it so messed up? Was this a total rewrite?
My editor could sense the crisis brewing and helpfully called to chat. That’s when she realized I was about to meltdown and I realized that she hadn’t said the first thing about rewriting the whole book. No, what I’d done was short-changed some of the emotional stuff for the sake of plot. (But you’re a pantser, I hear you cry! Yes, it’s true, but I can let the plot get in the way as I make stuff up. Which is what I did.)
I have a bodyguard book, which is apparently a classic Presents trope. I did not realize that actually. But I’d gotten a bit caught up with the mechanics of the bodyguarding and the heroine’s job (it’s a cool job, believe me, and one my hero has to protect her for) and it seems as if I’d let those things get in the way of true emotional connection. I didn’t think I’d done that, because there is emotion on the page — but it’s not deep enough.
So my task now is to go back in and pull out the elements that are overshadowing the characters, and then to turn up the emotion to boil. I’m really looking forward to it — and so relieved it’s not a total rewrite. I may be a pantser, but I usually get a pretty good story arc by the end that doesn’t require major shifting. Thankfully, this isn’t a major shift, but it’s still work.
The lesson here, if you’re looking for one, is something I’ve said before: your words aren’t static. You have to be willing to change them. And it’s not the words so much as the story. Spending hours and hours taking out all the ‘was’ words, or getting rid of ‘was’ + ‘ing’ constructions, is insane. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking STORY.
If you have any questions about what that is, go read this amazing post by Epic Black Car.
That is all. 😉
Sometimes, when we are still unpublished, we think that if only we could get The Call, everything would be easier. We’d have an editor and our books would be on the shelves. And, yes, while this is true and it is a most wonderful thing, there is still work to be done. The kind of work that when you get it as an unpublished writer, you are discouraged and think you’ll never get there.
But I have to tell you that part of your life as a published author is rewriting. Successfully, regularly, and when asked. I have recently done a lot of rewriting. And right now, I’m rewriting the novella that’s due in two weeks. Why? Because my editor wanted my internal conflicts to be better. I thought they were pretty good in the 25 pages I sent to her, but she was right as always and they could be better.
So I chucked those 25 pages and started again. Now, I have only days until it’s due and a lot of pages still to write. Which means I will be scarce, but I’ll check in and report on my progress when I can.
Remember, if you’ve recently gotten a rejection with a suggestion for massive rewrites, don’t be discouraged. Published writers have to do it too. And so will you, so get used to it now and get busy. 🙂
(And can you believe that tomorrow is December already? OMG!)
I turned in my revisions last night at about midnight. Since my editor is in the UK, that means they’d be sitting in her inbox when she arrived in the morning. What a relief to get them gone! The work isn’t done until she tells me it is, so no getting my hopes up that the book is finished yet. There may be some more work to do.
In the meantime, I have a sheikh novella to write! My lovely editor called me this morning to talk about him. I suspected there would be work to do there, and of course I was right. The novella is a new format for me, so it’s also a learning experience to try and pack all the power and emotional punch of a Presents into 25k. That story is due in about 3 weeks now, so guess who will be busy and scarce once more? 🙂
But I’m excited about the holiday this week! What American doesn’t love Thanksgiving? A day dedicated to eating and spent with family? Can’t wait. We’re going to my mother’s house, and one of my brothers will be there with his family too. I’m making my famous Cajun stuffing, and I believe I’m in charge of cranberry sauce too. Tomorrow, my mother and I are going shopping together for many of the fixins (a Southern word, for my international readers, that means ingredients).
Of course I’m going to have to find a way to write during all this festivity. And I will. I’ll write early, write late, and write whenever there’s a free moment.
I’m still looking for my winner last week! Cynthia Gander, where are you? Email me for your book! 🙂
And, speaking of books, Cavelli’s Lost Heir is officially out in the UK now! If you live in the UK, and you happen to see my book on the shelves, could you snap a pic? Email to me at lynn AT lynnrayeharris DOT com, and I’ll send you a couple of my lovely bookmarks!
Hey, y’all! Sorry to be absent lately, but I’m working hard on revisions and I also have a novella to finish. Add in the upcoming holiday rush, a new book release (Dec in the UK and India, Jan in the US and Australia), and I just don’t know where the time goes! All I know is it seems as if I have a lot going on lately. 🙂
But, why don’t we liven things up a bit around here? It’s time to give away a signed copy of Cavelli’s Lost Heir! Leave me a comment for a chance to win. And tell me what you’re doing to get ready for the holidays!
UPDATE: The winner is Cynthia! See the comments below for details!